Election shock

A FORMER Northampton MP faces being booted out of his own party following a bizarre series of events which are due to make the battle for the Guildhall one of the most dramatic elections in years.

Last week, the Chron revealed former Northampton South MP Tony Clarke, who is currently general manager of Northampton Town Football Club, had been chosen by Labour to stand in the supposedly safe Castle ward for the May 3 local elections.

But the decision split the party, leading to infighting which went all the way to Westminster and eventually led to Mr Clarke's removal.

He will now stand as an independent and fight against the official Labour Party candidate in Castle, a decision which will result in his expulsion from the party.

And in another bizarre twist, he will be joined by Northampton Labour group's chief whip and current Castle ward councillor, Peter Evans, who also faces expulsion as a result of the internal spat. Speaking exclusively to the Chron yesterday Mr Clarke said: "Both myself and Peter, who has been an excellent councillor, have had to put the wishes of local people before the bureaucracy of the national Labour Party.

"We are both Labour people through and through and it's with great sadness that we've had to make this decision."

The two politicians will run together in the Castle ward with the backing of many senior members of the Northampton Labour group, who may also face expulsion from the party because of their support for the ex-MP.

The move follows a week of behind-the-scenes arguments between local party activists and those at a national level.

The spat saw a number of votes held on who should be selected to stand in Castle, the alleged creation of an all-woman shortlist for the seat and the involvement of at least one cabinet minister.

But Mr Clarke said despite the Labour snub he was still determined to seek office at the Guildhall, adding: "There are some people at the council who need to hear some harsh truths and I'm not going to be prevented from doing that by some bureaucracy at Labour central office."

It is not known exactly what was behind the spat, but insiders have suggested a faction of the party opposed Mr Clarke's return to politics.

He said: "We need to be careful what we say, but I'm yet to see any basis these decisions have been made on."

Following the row, the Labour party has selected just one person to fight for the two available seats in their Castle ward.